Clark’s road trip hack: Why renting a car could be smarter than driving your own

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Road trip
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One of the enduring questions of travel season is how can you save money and still have a great time? Perhaps you’ve cut your trip a day or two short for money reasons. You may have even foregone buying plane tickets and opted to drive to your destination to cut costs.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to drive rather than fly, you will typically add a day or two to your trip for road travel. You might also be thinking about driving your own vehicle to keep expenses low – but hold it right there!

Savings sensei Clark Howard says that you could save money in the long run if you rent a car for travel rather than drive your own.

Renting a car vs. driving your own for summer vacation

“Instead of driving your own vehicle on your summer vacation, rent one. Particularly if you’re going in a seven-day block, renting a vehicle could be a lot cheaper than effectively putting all those additional miles on your own vehicle,” he says.

Clark says gas prices are agreeable in much of the nation, making a road trip the most attractive mode of summer travel. Another advantage is that travelers can score vehicles with added amenities or larger space for long trips, Clark says.

“Let’s say you need a larger or smaller vehicle or a different kind for your trip than what you own. Renting one can just work out so, so well,” he says.

Why it’s sometimes cheaper to rent a car rather than drive yours

If you drive your own car, because you’ll be putting additional miles on it, you’ll be literally driving down the resale value of your vehicle. “If you shop and find a good deal on a rental car, you put those trip miles and the depreciation that goes with it on that rental car instead of your own,” he says.

Those highway miles will end up costing you more money than renting. “Figure putting miles on your vehicle — at a minimum – 50 cents a mile,” he says. Additionally, a rental car may get you better gas mileage, which translates to lower fuel costs for your trip.

Of course, it depends on which make and model you choose, but the market for car rentals favors consumers right now, Clark says.

“Car rental companies are feeling pressure from people not renting cars like they used to. They’re using Uber or Lyft instead of renting a car. That has softened up demand for the car rental industry. It has made the deals the best they’ve been in a long while on car rentals,” he says.

Now is this a one-size-fits-all solution to your travel plans? Of course not. You still need to shop around and see if it makes financial sense based on how far away you’ll drive and how many days you’ll be away.

“Not every time, every date, every situation will you find a car rental to be cheaper, but usually you will, compared to the effective cost of putting those miles on your own vehicle,” Clark says.

RELATED: 5 ways to save money on that roadtrip

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Craig Johnson is a conscious money-saver who still reads paperback books and listens to vinyl. He likes to write about how technology is making things easier and more affordable — but also sometimes more dangerous — for the modern consumer.  You can reach Craig at craig@clark.com
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